| 4 March 2024, Monday |

Russia risks dividing its forces, UK says

According to an intelligence update from the UK Defense Ministry on Saturday, Russian forces run the risk of splitting their resources by simultaneously repelling the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the southern region of Ukraine and launching an offensive in the eastern part of the country.
In 2022, the Nobel Foundation, which organizes the annual Nobel prize ceremony and banquet in Stockholm, decided not to invite the Russian and Belarusian ambassadors to the Stockholm award event because of the Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. They made the same decision regarding the Iranian envoy over the country’s crackdown on a wave of protests.

“We recognise the strong reactions in Sweden,” the foundation said in a statement on Saturday.

“We, therefore, choose to repeat last year’s exception to regular practice – that is, to not invite the ambassadors of Russia, Belarus and Iran to the Nobel Prize award ceremony in Stockholm.”

Ukraine’s foreign ministry welcomed the decision, calling it a “victory for humanism.” “We thank everyone who demanded the restoration of justice,” said spokesman Oleg Nikolenko.
Ukrainian state security officials named powerful businessman Ihor Kolomoisky as a suspect in a fraud and money laundering case, the SBU security service said.

“It was established that during 2013-2020, Ihor Kolomoisky legalized more than half a billion hryvnias (roughly $13.5 million or €12.5 million at the current exchange rate) by withdrawing them abroad and using the infrastructure of the controlled banks,” the SBU said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.

Kolomoisky is a former owner of leading Ukrainian bank PrivatBank, which was nationalized in late 2016 as part of a major clean-up of the country’s banking system. He also owned an array of assets in the energy, banking, and other sectors, including one of Ukraine’s most influential television channels.

The United States sanctioned Kolomoisky in 2021 “due to his involvement in significant corruption.” US authorities have also alleged Kolomoiskiy and a business partner laundered stolen funds through the United States. Kolomoiskiy has denied any wrongdoing.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made cracking down on corruption a priority as Ukraine battles Russia’s 18-month-old invasion and Kolomoisky, one of Ukraine’s richest men, is the most prominent figure to have become a target.

Zelenskyy, who rose to prominence as a comedian and played the role of president on a show aired on a Kolomoisky-owned TV channel, has denied having personal ties to the businessman.
By simultaneously repelling the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south of the country and attacking in the east itself, Russian forces risk dividing their forces, UK Defense Ministry said in its intelligence update.

Russia is continuing to advance on Kupiansk in eastern Ukraine, trying to force Ukraine to split its units between the south and east, the update said.

“Given that Russia has made modest gains near Kupiansk since the Ukrainian counteroffensive began in June, they are highly likely seeking to capitalize” by continuing to resource this area of the front, the ministry said.

However, this could force Russia itself to split up its troops in order to prevent a breakthrough by Ukraine around Orikhiv to the south, according to the update.

Ukainian forces have reached the first main Russian defense line there despite the efforts of the Russian forces, primarily composed of the 58 Combined Arms Army and Russian Airborne Forces elements, to halt them.

Meanwhile, the White House on Friday said that Ukrainian forces in recent days have made “notable progress” against Russian troops in their southern offensive.

“Any objective observer of this counteroffensive, you can’t deny… that they have made progress now,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters, calling criticism of the Ukrainian effort by anonymous officials “not helpful.”
Russian Defense Ministry said that it had downed two Ukrainian drones over Belgorod region, a border province that comes under regular attack from Ukrainian forces.

Separately, the governor of neighboring Kursk region said that a village on the border had come under shelling from Ukraine, with one woman injured.

Ukrainian drone attacks on Russian territory have picked up in recent weeks, with dozens of drones striking Russia at once some days.

  • DW